God’s Particular Will

In a commentary on Ephesians, particularly chapter 5, John Stott says:

“Secondly, *wise people discern the will of God*. They are sure that, whereas willfulness is folly, wisdom is to be found in God’s will and nowhere else. *Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is* (verse 17)…Moreover, in seeking to discover it, it is essential to distinguish between his ‘general’ and his ‘particular’ will. The former is so called because it relates to the generality of his people and is the same for all of us, e.g. to make us like Christ. His particular will, however, extending to the particularities of our life, is different for each of us, e.g. what career we shall follow, whether we should marry, and if so whom. Only after this distinction has been made can we consider how we may find out *what the will of the Lord is*. His ‘general’ will is found in Scripture; the will of God for the people of God has been revealed in the Word of God. But we shall not find his ‘particular’ will in Scripture. To be sure, we shall find general principles in Scripture to guide us, but detailed decisions have to be made after careful thought and prayer and the seeking of advice from mature and experienced believers.”

Pardon my presumption, but I would add two things to Stott’s commentary at this point. First, while it is true that we will not find God’s particular will for ourselves in Scripture, we will find His particular will for others. (Consider God’s will for Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Paul.) Why bring this up? I’ve noticed that there is an assumption that many Christians have when it comes to discerning God’s particular will for their lives which is rooted in their attitude toward God’s revelation of his particular will to these and other people in Scripture. The assumption is that, just as God had a particular call on these people’s lives, He has a call on each and every individual. Note that I use the word assumption for that is what it is. The Scriptures never say that God has a particular will for each and every individual beyond being delivered from death to life. Second, I’d like to add that even after we think carefully, pray earnestly and pursue good counsel from “mature and experienced believers”; we still can not claim to have flawlessly divined God’s particular will for our individual circumstances. We can say that we have used the resources available to us and commended our decision to God who “in all things, works for the good of those who love him”.

I think many Christians are unnecessarily burdened with the task of finding God’s particular will for their lives. I’m not thinking of those folks who tramp through life confident that they’ve rightly understood various impressions, leadings and “burdens” on their hearts or faultlessly interpreted the results of “fleeces” they’ve “lain out”. I’m thinking of those who are constantly wondering if they are “in the center of God’s will” or who, due to a change in their circumstances, feel oppressed by the guilt of having “missed God’s will”. For those people, I would ask God to help them reach the point where they can rely on His revealed general will and the wisdom that He provides to make particular decisions, ultimately confident that God is at work, mysteriously, on their behalf.

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